Embodying the Largest Slave Revolt in American History

Slave Rebellion Reenactment (SRR) is a community-based performance that will restage and reinterpret the largest armed rebellion of enslaved people in North American history. The German Coast Uprising took place outside of New Orleans in 1811. SRR will bring to life an episode in the history of slavery that was long hidden from conventional accounts.
It is the story of oppressed people who devised an audacious plan to organize, take up arms and seize Orleans Territory, to fight not just for their own emancipation, but to end slavery and establish a state where people of African descent were free. It is a project about resistance and freedom.

The artwork will involve hundreds of re-enactors marching 26 miles over two days. It will be take place upriver from New Orleans in the same locations where the 1811 revolt occurred, amid chemical refineries, box stores, suburbs, gated communities and trailer parks that have cropped up in the vicinity of the former sugar plantations where the revolt began. Each participant will wear authentic period costumes researched and created especially for the reenactment.

SRR will be an impressive and startling sight: 500 black people, some on horseback, armed with cane knives and muskets, flags flying, in 19th century French colonial garments, singing in Creole to African drumming.

Through nearly all of their march to New Orleans, the 1811 rebels were unopposed as they massed, growing in number as they marched 26 miles to the city. In contrast to many war reenactments, SRR will be mainly a procession—reanimating the freedom of movement and destiny that the rebels created for themselves as they travelled to New Orleans.

Slave rebellions were, of necessity, clandestinely organized by a few individuals who enlisted new participants through informal methods of communication and conspiracy across the sprawling landscape of plantations. Slave Rebellion Reenactment is using a similar approach to identifying participants. The organizers are working with individuals throughout the region—at community organizations, colleges, neighborhood centers and other venues—who are charged with recruiting a cell of reenactors and making sure they are appropriately costumed and educated in the history of the rebellion.

Slave Rebellion Reenactment was conceived and initiated by Dread Scott and is being mounted in partnership with Antenna, a New Orleans multi-arts organization, and many collaborators and advisors in New Orleans.

Visit our successful Kickstarter campaign site to see a short video about the reenactment.

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About the Organizers

Raven Crane

Project Coordinator

Raven Crane is a gulf south native, queer, filmmaker, curator and organizer. They live for…

Dread Scott

Lead Artist

Dread Scott makes revolutionary art to propel history forward. In 1989, the entire US Senate denounced…

Malcolm Suber

Community Outreach

Malcolm is a veteran revolutionary organizer who has lived in New Orleans for the past…

Nic Brierre Aziz

Antenna Director of Programs

Nic Brierre Aziz is a native New Orleanian writer, curator, and performance artist. His passions…

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Resources

The story of the 1811 revolt, and slave rebellions generally, is/are a powerful story of liberation with many lessons for the present. If you want to engage that history more fully, below is a list of resources I have been drawing on.

  • On to New Orleans, Albert Thrasher—This is the original book that presents the first substantial research of the 1811 revolt—years before the later bestseller American Uprising. On to New Orleans is published by Leon Waters and is currently available directly from him: leonawaters8@gmail.com. Price is $30 + $4 shipping charge.
  • Soul By Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market, Walter Johnson—An important exploration of a slave market, both as a physical location where slaves are sold, but also market, as in stock market.
  • Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy, Bob Avakian. This book looks squarely at
    how slavery is foundational to America and how the political, legal, philosophical and
    economic base from America's founding is rooted in oppression and exploitation and
    how that legacy is inextricably woven into America at present.
  • The Confessions of Nat Turner — As told to Thomas R. Gray. Not to be confused with the novel by William Styron. Available as free download here.
  • American Negro Slave Revolts , Herbert Aptheker—The substantive first recounting of slave revolts in the US. Written with the assumption that the slave revolts are just and fighting for emancipation
  • Slavery by Another Name: The Reenslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to WWI I, Douglas Blackmon—more on the legacy of slavery.
  • Fire on the Mountain , Terry Bisson — A cool scifi “what if” set in the future if John
    Brown and Harriet Tubman launched a successful war to end slavery.
  • Congo Square, African Roots in New Orleans , Freddi WIlliams Evans
  • Fragments of the Peculiar Institution, Dread Scott. An artist book of Scott's research into slavery. Available exclusively on the SRR Kickstarter Campaign here.

Dread has also been looking at how visual artists have approached slave and peasant uprising. In particular:
– Hale Woodruff (Amistad murals)
– Kathe Kollwitz (Peasant War series)
– Jacob Lawrence (Toussaint Louverture)

Slave Revolt in Jamaica 1760-1761, Vincent Brown. In this interactive web project, Brown presents an animated thematic map that narrates the spatial history of the greatest slave insurrection in the eighteenth century British Empire. It gives a complex view of the dynamics and fighting strategy of revolts.

Burn (Queimada). 1969 Italian & French film directed by Gillo Pontecorvo and starring Marlon Brando and Evaristo Márquez. The fictional story focuses on the infighting between British and Portuguese colonial powers to occupy an island in the Caribbean. Brando plays a British secret government agent, who manipulates a slave revolt to serve the interests of the British sugar trade. The rebel slaves are the real heroes of the film.

We would also encourage anyone interested to visit New Orleans and take Leon Waters’ Hidden History Tour of the 1811 revolt.

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Contact

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Partners & Contributors

Lead Partners
Slave Rebellion Reenactment was conceived and initiated by Dread Scott and is being mounted in partnership with Antenna , a New Orleans multi-arts organization.

Donors (as of May 2018)
A Blade of Grass Foundation
Art Matters
Nathan Cummings Foundation
Givens Foundation for African American Literature
Gore Family Foundation
Ford Foundation
Harpo Foundation
Joan Mitchell Center
The Kindle Project
MAP Fund
McColl Center for Art + Innovation
New Orleans Center for the Gulf South at Tulane University
Open Society Foundations
Smack Mellon
VIA Art Fund
Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts

And 500+ individual donors through our Kickstarter campaign and other contributions.

Fiscal Sponsors
Antenna is lead fiscal sponsor of Slave Rebellion Reenactment.

Slave Rebellion Reenactment is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.

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